So itís that time of year again, you know the one,Its shortly after Valentines day and my supply of Christmas cheer or as I refer to it, or ďthat large pile of high percentage alcoholic drinksĒ as others call it, is running dry. This can only mean one thing itís time for a massacre and what better victim than the hapless Christmas themed indie games, who have about 2 weeks of relevance before being seen once again as the useless gimmicky pieces of crap they actually are.
Originally I posted this over the course of a week on my main blog but hey I thought some here might enjoy it as its the 2nd year I've done one of these now.
So sit down with some "Christmas cheer" and enjoy reading this and wondering how I don't want to deck the devs with bows of holly for producing some of this absolute yellow snow poor attempts at games while I may or may not have gradually got drunker and angrier as these progressed.
All costs are in Microsoft points.
Approximate conversion 80 = $1
Scoring system 0 = I don't think in good conscience even call this a game either because it lacks any elements of gameplay or is an unplayable mess of glitches that should be buried in the desert instead of the ET cartridges
1= It qualifies as a game just about though its probably the kind of game banned under the Geneva convention as a torture device more than a conventional game you'd want to play.
2= It's a game, it offers a few bits of fun but they are few and or it has a lot of bugs still in the game or is overpriced to the nth degree. Not worth the money being asked in most cases on these.
3= Its a Run of the mill game, you come out having had some fun, you don't feel like you've wasted your time but you don't really feel you've used it well and made a wise purchase. Sure you don't feel cheated by the game but you don't feel you found treasure either.
4= A better than average game, providing some fairly fun sections with minimal annoying parts and relatively bug and glitch free. Makes itself feel worth your money and you might even play it again
5= A game of exceptional quality, providing next to no annoying parts or down time you feel like it was well worth your money and you feel time on it was more than well spent.
6= Why do you not own this game yet ? Every so often the gaming equivalent of gold dust comes about. A game that has the pacing just right, the game play refine down zero glitches in my play time and being price such that its honestly insane quality and or time for the cost. In over 200 reviews only 2 game have ever been given this score
Name: Super Santa Slayer Cost: 80
Review Bit: Now from the retro style box art initially I thought this game might be fine, I mean it appears to be from the same guys as Washingtonís Wig and that did wasnít terrible. Turns out I was wrong its actually a totally different company that made this title. Though I still had hope this title wasnít going to be a steaming pile of reindeer droppings.
So I decided to play it, that was my first mistake. My second mistake was expecting a game with a single player option to be worth playing in single player. You see far from my expectation of a side scrolling brawler, one a still held after checking the tutorial I should add, I was slightly shocked to find it was a fighting game. Yes a fighting game in the traditional sense of two people beating one another up and no others joining in. Now you see the problem with Super Santa Slayer is in single player, you play Santa and have to fight trough a succession of increasingly difficult enemies. That is to say each is more difficult because the first enemy doesnít move or attack. Oh thatís right thereís no real enemy AI in this game, the extent for most is repeating a series of attacks, the first doing nothing, the second doing single punches and moving towards you, the third doing mostly single punches then a low kick every now and again and the fourth throwing in a few more low kicks.
So the AI is crap I mean it makes Aliens Colon Marinate look good but surely itís not that bad right ? It must have a redeeming feature ? Well the only one I can give is the game didnít crash on me, and that in itself is a shame as at least Iíd be able to call it a buggy pile of crap rather than just crap. You see beyond the terrible AI is a laughably simple fighting game, its three buttons and directions. You can punch, kick and block and vary them by doing jumping and ducking versions, no special moves, no real character variation and at most 3 frames of animation for each move per character. Oh thereís 8 characters but they look dire, Iím not normally one to criticise graphics or art but this looks like something I submitted for art homework in highschool. Itís so terrible it's almost laughably bad.
Verdict: A rather terrible fighting game that can only really be played multiplayer with no online support, you have got to be joking if you think this is getting a recommendation. This game is so terrible that even if this were a boxed game Grandparents would be ashamed to give it to their kids because even theyíd be able to tell how terrible this game is. Avoid this like I try to avoid answering the question most relatives seem to love of ďOh why arenít you seeing anyone ?Ē
Score 1 out of 6
Name: Gingerbread holiday sharing Cost: 80
Review bit: So for some reason Gingerbread houses have gained a connection to Christmas more than they have to fairytales now. I really went in knowing this game was going to be crap. Iím sorry but seriously itís a game about decorating gingerbread houses and being able to show those poor unfortunate friends who also got dragged into playing this game.
The games problem is it forgets two of the more fun parts. Eating the house and watching the house collapse as you pull vital parts of it off.
In fairness to the game I think its target audience might be the 3 and under crowd with its simplistic design and controls. You pick up sweets and hang the required amount on the houses and signs to complete a level. But wait the second level has a twist, you have to open presents to find an icing bag to draw on the icing use to attack the sweets to. Now you can draw the icing on anything pretty much and itís a nice white colour. You know where my immature mind immediately went with this one Iím sure. But just to clarify, yes I did draw a giant rather graphic action shot of a penis. Even better I discovered if you leave the icing a while it turns blue meaning I made a penis of someone dying of hypothermia. I also then made them a steroid user by replacing the balls with Acorns. Oh yes I had plenty of fun doing that, Iím guessing itís not what the developer intended for it but itís what I did.
Verdict: I can only recommend this to people with very young children who are easily amused or collage students wanting to see who can make the most warped and corrupting town in a weird contest amongst friends. Itís by no means a worth while game and youíll quickly bore of the seemingly intended way to play and start trying to abuse the game. Avoid like I avoid going anywhere near yellow snow.
Score 1 out of 6
Name:Santaís Xmas Dash II Cost: 80
Review bit: So yes this is the sequel the previous Santaís dash, which I never played however by looking at the previous title Iím pretty sure this game has exactly one difference and thatís a whole 1 extra song in the options. Ok there may be a minor mechanical change meaning it better represents when youíre meant to press the buttons but I canít be sure.
In Santan's Xmas gash II you play Santa and itís your job without your sleigh to deliver presents. To do this you have to climb between houses on strings of Christmas lights, this sounds like some kind of great setup for a kids stealth game. Unfortunately itís not a stealth game itís a quick time event. In normal mode you automatically move to the Christmas lights and climb on, the only thing you then have to do is press the corresponding buttons as they appear inside the scrolling box at the bottom of the screen, the very slow scrolling buttons.
In Dash mode itís changed slightly as you have 60 seconds to see how far you can get, so the tedium of waiting for the buttons to show up is gone. Instead you simply press the buttons as fast as they come up and see quite how far you can get.
The game also offers competitive race multiplayer and apparently co-operative multiplayer, local only of course. As when you have a game with next to no gameplay thatís exactly the kind of thing that will make you so beloved by friends for introducing them to such a poor and boring game
Verdict: With all of 4 midi esc vaguely accurate Christmas tunes and very poor gameplay value Santaís Xmas Dash II is so little improvement over the first itís almost a joke. This added to the fact the first game doesnít appear to have been very good itself really does make me question why the developer bothered with what is one of the most obvious holiday cash in series on XBLIG. Who knows maybe next year it will have 5 songs and online multiplayer. Avoid this game like I generally try to avoid ever being sober over Christmas.
Score 1 out of 6
Name:Jigsaw Jumble Xmas 2013 Cost: 80
Review bit: So Jigsaw Jumble Xmas 2012, a Christmas version of the normal Jigsaw Jumble game, a rather shameless holiday cash in game. Youíre given a range of Christmas pictures to pick from, you can then select the difficulty, or how many pieces there are in the puzzle.
Easy being the kind a 2 year old would be expected to do and hard being the kind your gran normally has set out in the front room and has been doing for the past few months. The game has a few problems, firstly you have to scroll through the pieces individually, meaning with large numbers of pieces, progress is slow going. Secondly the colour selection on the control screen made it near impossible for me to be able to tell what the controls are as the text doesnít stand out much against the background.
Verdict: A shameless cash in on holiday spirit which actually fails to be better or even as good as the N64 minigame jigsaws on Banjo Kazooie. Avoid like I avoid all contact with Charity collectors while Iím Christmas shopping.
Score 1 out of 6
Name:Story Mania Christmas Cost: 80
Review bit: Have you heard of mad libs ? Well Iím led to believe itís a widely known and well loved form of basic entertainment in the US. Loved for its basic nature and simple non digital design. Here in the UK it never really caught on our version as such was sitting in a high school common room playing Film title nipples a simple game where you just go round in a circle replacing a single word in a film title with the word nipple with people being eliminated for um-ing, going er or laughing at anyone elseís entry.
Why am I telling you all this ? Well the Story Mania series brought this idea to the digital world with you selecting from a series of predefined words for each purpose (Verbs, Adjectives etc etc..). Unfortunately while the ďgameĒ does produce a story based on your input its only humour value is rather puerile and unfortunate mistakes such as a dog killing a pet baby back rib, no that really did happen. As I do with most games aimed in any way at kids I decided to go out of my way to make at as un child friendly as possible so I deliberately picked options that sounded like I could make it into a very non PG story involving a princess, a waitress, Alcohol, Pirate DVDs and the night they shared a bed. Unfortunately for me the game was onto me and managed a rather garbled story about what happened Christmas morning. The full version does offer more story templates that can be used including ďRudolph the Red eyed ElfĒ but really thereís little gameplay here and the preparation period for each story really does drag on, for what are actually rather short tales.
Verdict: I really find it hard to recommend this to anyone at all as itís barely a game. If this were an app for android or IOS I could just about get it but on XBLIG it seems really out of place having no game play elements at all. Avoid like one year I will finally manage to avoid crying by not watching Love Actually at Christmas.
Score: 0 out of 6
Name:Christmas Carnage [b]Cost:[b] 80 Review bit: Welcome to a game that counts down to Christmas for you, what happens on Christmas day ? Who knows, I can tell you I wasnít going to boot it up on Christmas day to find out.
Christmas Carnage is , you guess it a horde shooter with the aim being to survive as many levels as possible and get a high score. You play as a fairy which in game looks nothing like the fairy shown on the join screen because and use the right stick to fire in the corresponding direction. Enemies come in the form of different Christmas themed things such as lights and Dr Who esc moving Christmas trees, see I managed to make another Dr who link to a Christmas game. On each level a quick text scroll cynically questions traditions such as bringing a tree into the house as its ďBeautiful on the outside but dead on the insideĒ, very much a close description of me if you replace beautiful with the word hideous.
The power ups are almost required with enemies on some levels requiring multiple hits but many power ups cutting through multiple enemies in a single shot. The one annoyance is the shield power up which actually blocks you from picking up other power ups too. A second bug managed to occur for me in the form of a serious pocket of lag, thatís right lag in a single player game. This short period of jumping / slowdown in the game I really do have to suggest is a rather weird bug still in there.
One and only one plus point this game has is the enemies donít just look visually different but behave it too, mostly in their motions around the screen which does help define them a bit more.
Verdict: Hey game Iím the one that makes the cynical smartarse remarks about Christmas youíre meant to be a fun enjoyable game. I canít really recommend this game to anyone at all not even as a joke as the whole aim is to get a high score and with no online scoreboards thereís no real competition except for any unsuspecting friends you can convince to play this rubbish. Avoid like I avoid trying to remember what gifts my ex got me for past Christmases.
Score 1 out of 6
Well that's it hope you enjoyed my slightly dark look at some of the offerings XBLIG served up this Christmas and I'll leave you with one question.
Will there ever be a Christmas themed game that doesn't suck ?